SCOTTISH ministers are being urged to review the costs of travelling by public transport as part of efforts to cut down on car journeys.

The Scottish Government has set the goal of reducing the numbers of miles travelled by car by 20% by 2030.

But with a new report highlighting how fares for public transport have risen “well above inflation”, a cross-party group at Holyrood has said that “the cost of public transport needs to be cut in real terms”.

It added: “Considering the cost of living crisis and the cost increases of public transport over the past decades, the cost of public transport needs to be cut. The Scottish Government should review the affordability of bus and rail travel and ensure that Scots are able to afford using public transport.”

In the September Programme For Government, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged that ScotRail fares would be frozen until at least March 2023.

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But a new report by MSPs on Holyrood’s Cross Party Group on Sustainable Transport said that “increasingly expensive” fares for bus or train, coupled with the “hidden costs” of travelling by car could make public transport a “less attractive alternative”.

The report recommended action to “ensure that alternatives to car travel are available and affordable”.

MSPs in the group made the recommendation after the report noted that “public transport costs, particularly bus fares, have risen well above inflation over the past years, while the cost of private car use has been rising below inflation and wages”.

The report said: “Ensuring that there are affordable and accessible public transport services that can compete with private car use in attractiveness will be a key element in delivering an equitable transport system.”

Ministers have also been urged to provide clarity around the policy’s “expected impacts” and the timescales for implementing it.

To achieve the goal of cutting mileage by 20%, the group recommended ministers target “unnecessary car journeys”. The report also called for vans to be included as part of the traffic reduction target.

The National: Tory MSP Graham SimpsonTory MSP Graham Simpson

The group convener, Scottish Tory MSP Graham Simpson, said: “Cutting car miles by one-fifth within just over seven years is a tall order.

“When it still costs a couple times more to travel by train than it would in petrol, you have to ask how we are ever going to encourage people onto public transport.”

Labour MSP and group deputy convener Sarah Boyack said: “My priorities would be a focus on ensuring that public transport is affordable and accessible, with a reversal of cuts to bus services, continued investment in active travel and support for a shift to low-carbon transport across all sectors.”

Fellow deputy convener and SNP MSP John Mason added the report had “highlighted a range of issues which need to be addressed”.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell, also a deputy convener, said: “What stands out for me is that there appears to be no route to meet climate targets without vehicle mileage reduction.

“Navigating our way to a better future will need the use of demand management measures and investment in more attractive alternatives.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “To reduce car use, public transport has to be affordable and accessible. We have frozen rail fares until March 2023. ScotRail fares remain, on average, cheaper than those across the rest of [the UK].

“We provide financial support for bus services to keep services more extensive, and fares more affordable.”

They added that their Fair Fares Review, which will be completed in 2023, would consider the impact of the cost of living crisis and consider further discounts over time.